Monday, December 2, 2013

Lishui Photo Festival: Awards and Pageantry

We were delighted to learn that we won a grand prize for our exhibition of Natural History portraits at the 2013 Lishui International Photographic Exhibition and Cultural Festival.

Above, Yan Li, (in pink) accepting the award on our behalf. In addition, Yan won best curator along with Blue Mitchell,  Fritz Leidtke's work also won grand prize and Susan Kae Grant's exhibition won an honorable mention out of over 1000 Chinese and international exhibitors. Many thanks to Yan Li and Blue Mitchell for their excellent orchestrations.

A short clip of the opening ceremony of the exhibiton which was an hour and half of rich spectacle that celebrated photography and the culture of Lishui. Never have I seen photography so exalted!

2013 Lishui, China International Photographic Art Exhibition and Culture Festival

Natural History installed in the Lubro Pump Factory complex in Lishui

We met curator Yan Li of High Noon Culture and Art at Filter Photo Festival in Chicago last year. She included our work in the publication People’s Photography in Beijing and subsequently invited us to bring our portraits from Natural History to Lishui, China for a show of “Unconventional Photography” co-curated with Blue Mitchell of Diffusion Magazine. So we packed up 15 portraits and Barbara headed for Lishui in Zhejiang province in southeastern China to join the 9 other invited artists for this opportunity and adventure.

The Lubro Pump Factory complex of 8 buildings housed numerous curated and individual exhibits of Chinese and international photographers and one building devoted to photobooks. The factory is no longer working but the site was full of history. At bottom, this installation by Little Big Press of Rome was displayed against the eloquent patina of the abandoned factory. Additionally there were five other sites to see photography. Over 200,000 people attended the 4 day event.

Clay Lipsky submitted a wonderful summation on Lenscratch:

Lishui Photo Festival: On Giving and Receiving

 Giving & Receiving Present, © Unknown,
from the Three Shadows Photography Art Center Collection

Bowing in gratitude for the many wonderful exchanges during our time in Lishui:

My team of sweet, enthusiastic volunteers who helped frame the work. The young men were architecture students from the University of Lishui. At right, Rainbow and Mushroom, their chosen names, who are are studying English at the University and had never spoken English with a foreigner before. We are now pen pals. When Rainbow asked me about our work, I said  we use old photographic processes in a new way and after looking at the work, she replied "Oh I understand. Like daughter paying homage to father." Their openness was a highlight of the trip.

High school students peppered us with questions, practicing their English and giggling, and we were interviewed and photographed like celebrities.

Meeting the other Chinese photographers exhibiting was an honor and cause for exchanges that would inevitably draw a crowd who photographed us. We even made the Lishui newspaper.

 We visited the studio of one of the artists we met at the exhibition and were served tea in his hand thrown celadon glazed exquisite teacups. We all came away with his beautiful pottery.

Here enjoying the cultural treasure of Chinese foot massage at Leisure Foot in Lishui.

And the sweetest gift of traveling with engaging, talented, and fun photographers.

The “Unconventional Photographers” with curator: l to r: Barbara Ciurej, Jim Leisy, Bill Vaccarro, Yan Li, Clay Lipsky, Fritz Leidtke, Susan Kae Grant, and her consort Rich Klein, Heidi Kirkpatrick and Ryan Zoghlin. We missed Lindsay Lochman, Kim Kaufman and co-curator Blue Mitchell.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Back of the House: Wing of the Unmarried Daughters

In Beijing, my hotel was a converted 300-year old former residence of a high ranking official. The room where I stayed was in the back of the house where the unmarried daughters were kept. Another lesson in refined confinement since "the leftover woman" was an embarrassment to her family.

What Cixi Saw

Cixi was the Empress Dowager (1835-1908) who ruled China (from behind a yellow silk curtain) for decades and moved China from a medieval empire into the modern age.  Jung Chiang's book: Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China defines her as reformer who abolished gruesome punishments like "death by a thousand cuts",  inaugurated women's liberation by outlawing foot binding and embarked on a path to parliamentary elections in China.

I visited the concubines' quarters (The Hall of Cultured Elegance) in the Forbidden City and felt the confinements of the women who served the emperor. Within these constraints, she found ways to rule.

Marina Warner in her biography: The Dragon Empress: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China describes these walls within walls within walls.